What you need to know about Virginia's ban on handheld device use while driving

You’ve probably heard that there’s a new ban on cellphone use while driving in Virginia. But what you may not know is how this new law is different from a previous ban on texting while driving and what this means for you.

As of January 1st, 2021, a new law went into effect in Virginia making it illegal to hold any cellphone or handheld personal communication device while driving.  This means handheld activity on electronic devices is prohibited when you’re behind the wheel. But, voice command actions are permitted as long as the smartphone or device isn’t in your hand.

Virginia Code § 46.2-818.2  states that your first violation of the new law is punishable by a $125 fine. If you’re caught violating the new law a second time or while driving in a work zone, you could pay a $250 fine.

Previously, Virginia’s distracted driving law only prohibited holding a cellphone while driving through a work zone and reading or responding to emails or texts while operating a vehicle. The law expands those restrictions.

There are some exceptions to the total ban on handheld personal communication devices while operating a vehicle:

a)     You can use a handheld device to report an emergency

b)    You can use a handheld device while lawfully stopped and parked

c)     You can use an amateur or citizens band radio

d)    You can continue using a handheld device while driving if you are the operator of an emergency vehicle performing your official duties

e)     You can use a handheld device for official business if you are the operator of a Department of Transportation vehicle

It’s important to note that you can still engage in phone calls while driving as long as the device is hands-free. Mount your smartphone on the dashboard, use the Bluetooth system in your vehicle, or use an earbud in just one ear.   To learn more about why you can’t use both earbuds while driving, see Virginia Code §46.2-1078.

If you or someone you know has been cited in Virginia for driving while using a handheld device, give me a call to discuss your options in more detail. I’m here to help.